Africa Improved Foods is a fast-growing young company producing fortified foods in East Africa. Its CEO, Amar Ali, talks to African Business about growing a succesful company in the nutrition space.
Africa Improved Foods, founded in 2017, produces fortified foods for Africa at its facility in Kigali, Rwanda. Fresh from his appearance on a panel at the Nutrition Africa Investment Forum (NAIF) in Nairobi in October, its CEO, Amar Ali, spoke to African Business about his company's progress over the last year and the challenges that lie ahead.
As a relatively new nutrition company setting up in Rwanda, what have your successes and failures been so far?
To do something like this is tough. Were doing something which has never been done before, on a very large scale, to a quality standard that is frankly unknown in the region. So it's been a challenge. On top of that we are a joint-venture and a public-private partnership, so we are trying to do a lot of different things at once. However, a year and a half in and we have finished our processing plant on time and on budget, which is really a showcase for what can be done here. We've been operating at between 80% to 100% capacity the whole time. We have the highest levels of product quality--much higher than would be the national standard here. We are at the global standard. We have exceeded our supply targets for the World Food Programme and the government of Rwanda. We have launched five new commercial products in three countries. We are working with 24,000 smallholder farmers and we've doubled our local sourcing over the course of the year. So all in all it has gone pretty well.
Why did you choose Rwanda as a base?
A few reasons--the ease of doing business: it's considered to be the second easiest county to do business in Africa. It also has an economic and political system that is looking for investors. And it's well positioned strategically. In 10 years or so, neighbouring DRC and Tanzania will have loom plus populations.
Is it possible to make money while doing good--especially in the nutrition sector, which is relatively underdeveloped? Is a PPP the right model to achieve this?
It's a tough balance to try and get all the different pieces working, but I think the short answer is yes. One of the main things we are trying to do is solve the issue of malnutrition and stunting in Rwanda. I think to do that you need to be very closely partnered with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of...